Franschhoek, in the Winelands
A Hamptons-like getaway with luxury lodging
BY SARAH KHAN — Winter 2018
“I’m moving here,” my friend Sarah declares after less than 24 hours in Franschhoek. Even on a cloudy day, with the mountains that surround the beguiling Winelands town ringed in a mist that renders them all but invisible, Franschhoek is ethereal. About 50 miles east of Cape Town, the historic village of 15,000 is a fashionable weekend escape much like the Hamptons is for busy New Yorkers. But unlike the Hamptons, Franschhoek’s popularity barely wanes come winter; hearty feasts and roaring fireplaces at any number of the region’s 51 wineries make it a cozy getaway.
Sarah makes her announcement from the balcony at Leeu Estates, an 18-month-old hotel set amid rolling vineyards, and it’s easy to see why she feels instantly at home: The 17-room spread seems more like the opulent abode of a close friend than a hotel — if your friend had particularly good taste in art and hoarded masterpieces by Deborah Bell, Ricky Dyaloyi, Lionel Smit, and Angus Taylor.
Leeu Estates and its nearby sister properties, Leeu House and Le Quartier Français, have an intriguing backstory: Indian billionaire Analjit Singh first arrived in the village during the 2010 FIFA World Cup and instantly fell in love with the whitewashed Cape Dutch-style cottages and world-class wines, and proceeded to invest heavily in Franschhoek. You can experience that synergy at Leeu Estates’ Wine Studio, where guests are treated to a complimentary tasting of Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines. “We recommend Leeu for wine geeks. It’s a great representation of the South African wine industry,” says Ian Haggie of Explore Sideways, which offers wine tours throughout the region. “This is the best wine in Franschhoek.”
Leeu Collection also boasts two of the town’s top dining destinations — chef Vanie Padayachee’s North Indian eatery Marigold and the new La Petite Colombe, an offshoot of a top Cape Town restaurant. The village has culinary cred that far outmeasures its unassuming size: The dishes from chef Chris Erasmus’ foraging-focused menu at Foliage are works of art in themselves, and celebrity chef Reuben Riffel serves modern South African fare at the new Franschhoek flagship of his growing collection of restaurants throughout the region. Take a stroll down quaint Huguenot Street after a meal and consider popping into the local branch of Everard Read — you might not be able to move into Leeu Estates yourself, but perhaps you can acquire your own Deborah Bell sculpture to ship back home.
WHERE TO STAY IN FRANSCHHOEK
Leeu Estates: from $560. leeucollection.com
WHAT TO READ NEXT